Jul 292015

Payment service Stripe joins the unicorn club as credit card company Visa becomes the latest investor reports the Re/Code website.

Two years ago this site interviewed John Collison, one of the Irish twins who founded Stripe about their mission to bring the payments industry in the 21st Century.

With the Visa investment it now means two of the world’s three major credit card companies are investors in Stripe, the other being American Express, and this shows the incumbent players are acutely aware of the changes happening in the payments world.

That credit card companies are investing in the businesses that threaten to disrupt their industry indicates the incumbents’ savvy management; while there are cultural and ethical barriers in trying to undercut the existing profitable products, having a stake in the new competitors gives companies like Visa and AmEx to remain relevant in a post credit card world.

For Stripe, investment from what could have been their major competitors not only takes some of the pressure off the the business but also opens opportunities for technology sharing and access to bigger markets.

Probably the most important thing for Strip with the Amex and Visa investments is they legitimise the business and the entire payments startup sector. It’s an important vote of confidence in the technologies and market.

For the Collison twins it also helps build better businesses, as John told Decoding the New Economy two years ago, “if we just building a business to take transactions from PayPal and get them onto Stripe, that’s not that interesting. What is interesting is if we can create new types of transactions that would not have existed otherwise.”

“By providing better infrastructure for anyone to build a global business. That will change the kind of things people will build.”

Now more people will be looking at what they can build on these payment platforms.

Jul 112015
newspapers are dying as the media business models move online

The first industry to face the consequences of an age of data abundance was, not unexpectedly, the news media.

As the web took off, the old model of distributing news through broadcast bulletins and newspapers collapsed along with the advertising model which supported it.

Now the entire news industry is in transition as we look for a modern day David Sarnoff to figure out a business model that works.

Profiting from the transition

In the meantime that transition has opened up a whole range of opportunities for canny and fast moving entrepreneurs with a range of sites looking to profit from cheap or free content.

Most exploitative of these sites are the viral sites who, at best, lightly rewrite someone else’s work before posting it on their own pages. With the rise of Facebook, the social media referrals have boosted the traffic to these sites.

The acquisition of ViralNova by Zealot Media at a hundred million dollar valuation shows the value of those sites at present. Zealot itself is on an acquisition spree as this is the fifteenth acquisition made by the mysterious company this year.

ViralNova and the other viral sites don’t add a great deal to the internet with their glib repackaging of other peoples’ content based around what their algorithms believe will get the maximum traction from Facebook’s systems.

The end of the web

Some even believe this model marks the death of intelligent content on the web with Vice’s Carles Buzz declaring the dream of the highbrow internet is dead as sites like ViralNova and Upworthy come to dominate the web.

Wall Street Journal however sees the opposite in proclaiming the ViralNova move is the highpoint for the content farm business model as the economics and business risks of depending upon Facebook for traffic are ultimately doom these ventures.

Sites like The Awl in the meantime see their future in writing intellectual articles for a small but tightly defined audience. At the moment web advertising economics favour high traffic over highbrow however it may be in the medium term the higher quality will win.

High volume over highbrow

Recent history hasn’t been kind to those backing sites like The Awl however the viral media and content farms have seen their finances become increasingly shaky as online CPM rates decline and Facebook increasingly controls distribution.

The news model does need to be reinvented and someone, somewhere in the world will do it, although the person who cracks the code is as likely to be a smart kid in the Rio barrios or Mumbai slums as some VC backed Stanford graduate in a SOMA loft. For the moment though savvy entrepreneurs like those behind ViralNova will be making a quick buck.

Jul 042015
google glasses and wearable technologies

The original Google Glass program closed down at the beginning of this year and bought to an end the first stages of the highest profile virtual reality headset project.

At the time, the company flagged Glass was entering another stage and now the 9to5Google site reports an enterprise edition is well underway.

Despite the focus on consumer and gaming applications, enterprise applications in fields such as logistics and safety have been the bigger immediate opportunities for these products.

Jun 152015

The Internet of Things is a three legged stool of the consumer, enterprise and industrial applications says Vice President of GE’s software division, Bill Ruh.

“It’s about connecting machines, connecting people and driving a new kind of experience. For the consumer it’s a social experience, for the enterprise it’s a whole new way of how their IT departments running, in the industrial space it’s a revolution where we get to rethink how we operate.”

Ruh sees the IoT as being worth over 14 trillion dollars to GE over the next two decades, making it bigger than the other two legs combined.

Eliminating downtime

Most of that value comes from three areas; improved resource utilisation, operational optimisation and eliminating unscheduled downtime.

“The fact is downtime is expensive, for airline 41% of all delays and cancellations are due to mechanical errors. If we get rid of those your life gets better, my life gets better and the airline’s lives get better.”

“Zero unscheduled downtime doesn’t sound sexy but it’s one of the most profitable and sexiest topics ever.” In this Ruh agrees with Salesforce’s Peter Coffee that eliminating outages is a key part of delighting the modern customer.

Ruhe sees that the industrial sector hasn’t used IT and the internet well in the past, “RFID was going to change the world and it didn’t, we saw smartgrids were going to be the biggest thing and it didn’t achieve a lot of the hype that people saw.”

“Now the technology is aligned not just with technology for technology’s sake but to an outcome that leads to growth for an industrial sake.”

An example of the operational efficiencies that Ruh is particularly proud of is GE’s PowerUp technology that promises to improve the output of wind turbines, “it is a series of technologies used to analyse information about every wind turbine on a farm and to dynamically adjust each and every one to optimise the wind speed.”

“When you do that we’ve found we can generate up to five percent more electricity per wind farm because of software, which adds twenty-five percent more profitability.”

“In the next generation of wind turbines all this kind of software is going to be embedded in it from the design phase through to the operational phase,” Ruh says. “It’s going to change how our customers are going to operate wind turbines.”

Building digital twins

Another aspect Ruh sees with the changes is how machines and data will work together where equipment or parts are shipped with a ‘digital twin’, a software representation of the device that lets the customer test scenarios on their computers.

“I can now do ‘what if’ analysis on that machine using its data and that’s going to change how things work. That takes everything from 3D modelling, to manufacturing, to maintenance to operations.”

Building on domain knowledge

Ultimately Ruh sees GE’s strength with the Industrial Internet being the company’s domain knowledge, “this world is different and you cannot come from outside and pretend you’re going to learn it as you go.”

“The way people buy equipment is totally different, we have equipment that’s eighty years old and we still support it. That’s totally different from the software world.”

Jun 102015
now hiring happy workers

Last week in Sydney recruitment company Indeed sponsored a Future of Work summit to tease out some ideas about the what jobs will look like in the future.

While I wasn’t able to attend, being in Melbourne to deliver the Managing the Data Age presentation, I did manage to attend a lunch where Paul D’Arcy, the head of Indeed’s Hiring Lab, spoke about some of the trends we’re seeing in the workplace.

“One of the things we see is the change in the role of work over time,” says D’Arcy. “There was a period before the industrial revolution where work was where natural resources were. With the industrial revolution there was a shift to where the companies were organised.”

The interesting thing with that view is that the companies of the early industrial revolution gathered where the natural resources were easily accessed and finish products could be shipped as we saw when visiting England’s Ironbridge, one of the birthplaces of modern industry.

D’Arcy sees technology changing the idea that work goes to the companies, “where people with highly in demand skills congregate then that’s where jobs are created.”

The employment centres of the future will be the cities that attract those highly skilled workers, D’Arcy believes.

Spreading the developer love

One of the changes Indeed has seen in the workplace is how coding has now become a widespread skill with three quarters of all software developers around the world being employed by software companies. In the US it’s only 7% of coders are working for pure tech organisations.

Marketing is one field that has seen a dramatic shift says D’Arcy, “marketing has seen an enormous shift from what was predominately a creative industry to one driven by data.”

One of the constant questions confounding those of us writing and speaking about the future of business is ‘what will be the jobs of the future?’ While D’Arcy didn’t really have that answer one of the points is clear that programming and coding will be among the skills in demand over the near future.

In the longer term it’s still not clear exactly what jobs will be in demand in twenty or thirty years time, then again twenty years ago who would have guessed many of the technology jobs in demand today would have even existed.

While we’re still struggling with what roles will define the workplace it’s clear the location of the workplace is changing as well. The worker of the future will be a much more mobile creature than today and that has ramifications for the future.

May 282015
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Paul Wallbank regularly joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightlife on to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

Along with covering the tech topics of the day listeners are welcome to call, text or message in with their thoughts and questions about technology, change and what it means to their families, work and communities.

If you missed the May program, it’s now available on our Soundcloud account.

For the May 2015 program Tony and Paul looked at some of the gadgets coming out of the Internet of Things, what your social media posts say about you and Mary Meeker’s big Internet Trends report.

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

May 272015
how business evolves as objectives and markets change

Only one in four Australian businesses are prepared for change says a report released today by telco Optus.

The Future of Business report is based upon interviews with over 500 business leaders across twelve industries and exposes a disconnect between managers’ beliefs of how ready their businesses are to confront change and the reality.

Over four hundred of the respondents felt ‘confident or highly confident’ in their organisation’s readiness for change while the survey found only 23% of these organisations are actually ‘highly ready’.

Organisations that appeared to be highly ready tended to be outward focused with almost all of them citing the desire to meet customer needs as the top trigger for transformation while less change ready businesses are primarily driven to change in order to reduce costs.

“Change ready businesses are not only prepared for, but also anticipate and predict change. Disruption is happening everywhere and businesses of every size and in every industry need to be prepared to deal with rapid technological change and shifting consumer expectations,” says John Paitaridis, Optus Business’ Managing Director.

While the Optus survey doesn’t produce any great surprises it does emphasise how the dynamics of change work, organisations that are outward focused are more likely to identify and understand change than those looking inwards.

Listening to the marketplace and society almost always beats those counting paperclips.